Caps Top Six: The Hunter-era Begins

By Reed S. Albers

The Top Six returns!

After two 2-1 losses and a game that nearly looked like a 2-1 win/loss (thank god for more shots on net and a 3-2 result) the Caps are 1-2 under Dale Hunter, but the good has vastly outweighed the bad.

The team looks interested in playing defense (but Adam and I assume that’s because if they don’t Hunter might corner them in a dark alleyway) and while the electricity is lacking from fans in Verizon Center, there’s definitely a hint of it back on the ice.

The Caps are looking up for the moment and after 5-1 and 6-3 losses, that’s really the only place you can go. So without further delay, because we can power ranking anything and everything, here’s our Top Six players of the week.

 1. Jason Chimera – one goal (game winning goal), one assist, even plus-minus

Welcome to the top Chim-Dog. Chimera reached his goal total from last season in just 25 games. With 10 goals, he leads the Caps in that category and his line has established itself as a favorite of Coach Dale Hunter’s.

Prior to Saturday’s game with Ottawa, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom gave Chimera some annoyed shoves in warm-ups. We’d like to think it’s because they know who’s No. 1 on our list. OK, probably not.

 2. Troy Brouwer – one goal, even rating in three games

You could argue it’s a bit high, but Brouwer has transitioned well into the Hunter-era. He was even in plus-minus through all three games, cashed in a goal against Ottawa and he’s steadily bringing the physical play with 13 hits this week. Expect Brouwer, among other gritty players on the Caps, to flourish under Hunter’s tutelage.

3. Alex Ovechkin – two assists, two points, plus two

Under Hunter, Ovechkin has already gone places Bruce Boudreau’s No. 8 has never gone before – below the faceoff circle in the defensive zone.

A newer, more defensively active Ovechkin “debuted” this week and while it may not last, it’s encouraging. His offensive game is showing flashes of coming back too. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time until Ovechkin is back to normal and by normal we hope that means scoring goals, not coasting on defense.

4. Nicklas Backstrom – two goals, two points, plus one

Just like Ovechkin, Backstrom is showing a rejuvenated spirit on the ice under Hunter. When the Caps started 7-0-0, Backstrom was a primary force behind that drive. So it’s only fair to assume that if the team wants to get rolling again, it’s on No. 19 to turn the wheels. The upcoming matches with Florida, Ottawa and Toronto seem like a good trio to do just that.

5. Brooks Laich – one goal, one assist, two points

With all the talk about Ovechkin playing some of his best hockey all season, let’s not forget that Laich had a pretty outstanding game against Ottawa. He scored the game winning goal in overtime (in his 500th career game against the team that drafted him), skated over 20 minutes and has a two game point streak going after an assist versus Pittsburgh. Brooks Laich coached by Dale Hunter? Yeah, we like where this is going.

6. John Erskine – minus one, fight victory versus Pittsburgh

You could argue a few other players could take the six slot, but it’s hard not to hand out some special applause to Big John Stud.

His takedown of Arron Asham was beautiful to watch. His destruction of Evgeni Malkin in the corner was also a work of art. I think this Erskine guy might be the type of player Hunter likes to use. Enjoy your likely one time on this list John

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